A Gloomy Forecast Hanging Over The December Senatorial Elections?

5
334

From the look of things, the impending December senatorial elections and the referendum, scheduled to be held concomitantly, may likely be seriously imperiled and may be tainted by fraud that may not go down well with the public if nothing is done to put things in check. The forecast appears gloomy.

NEC Chairman Davidetta Browne Lansanah has for instance submitted a budget of US$14 million and a plan of action calling for a mobile Voters Roll Update (VRU) process to last a period of ten (10) days. Now critics contend that the budget as well as the plan is highly unrealistic. In the first place, NEC Chairperson Lansanah was appointed by her predecessor Korkoyah in 2019, to provide oversight to the 2020 Senatorial elections.

In that capacity, she also served as Chairperson of the Steering Committee for the 2020 elections. Under her leadership, the Steering Committee initially submitted a budget of  US$26 million for the elections and a planned 28-day period for update of the Voters Roll.  Informed sources say the budget was unrealistic.

And this was so primarily because the head of the NEC Data Center, Floyd Sayor (now Commissioner), for unexplained reasons, had insisted that the Data Center be outfitted anew with brand new equipment although existing equipment at the time were in working condition and functional. Sayor did not have his way and the budget was further reduced to US$23m to cover the VRU, elections and referendum.

But sources have told the Daily Observer that in a meeting held with partners, at which Justice Minister Musa Dean and Monrovia City Mayor Jefferson Koijee were present, Finance Minister Tweah railed against the budget arguing it was too high and questioning what was likely to happen were GoL unable to finance the budget.

The then chairperson of the NEC Steering Committee, Commissioner Davidetta Browne Lansanah, simply responded by saying were that to be the case, there would be no elections. This was as recent as December 2019. Fast forward to 2020, but now presiding as Chairperson of NEC, she has submitted a thrice revised budget from US$23 million to  US$17 million and is now down to US$13.5 million.

As if such reductions were not harmful enough, she has also proposed that the VRU be conducted within ten (10) days and will not be stationary but mobile as urged by some partners according to informed sources. The VRU process will include verification of names on the Voters Roll, replacement of damaged phots on IDs and inclusion of new voters who have attained legal age of eighteen (18) years.

But judging from experience, the figures as well as the plan of action appear highly unrealistic. There can be absolutely no justification or excuse for such an unrealistic submission because all along Chairperson Lansanah has sat in meetings, deliberated and even chaired the Steering Committee on these upcoming elections.

Questions are being asked whether she has acquiesced to pressure from Finance Minister Tweah and others such that she has now submitted a budget and plan of action which, if followed, will more likely than not prove to be a recipe for chaos. For example, during the 2014 senatorial elections, the NEC experimented with mobile registration and mobile Voters Roll update.

The experiment proved to be a virtual disaster even though it was done during the dry season when roads were in comparatively passable condition as opposed to the rainy season when roads in the countryside become virtually impassable. Moreover the 28-day period in which it was conducted proved to be insufficient allotted time.

This time around, according to Chairperson Lansanah’s budget and plan of action, the VRU will not be stationary rather, it will be mobile. But has the Chairperson forgotten about the disastrous 2014 experiment which had to be halted and replaced by a stationary VRU process?

Additionally, has she forgotten that Elections Magistrates, recalled from their assignments for a workshop in preparation for the elections, in addition to daily subsistence allowance (DSA), have to be provided breakfast and lunch? They have expressed shock and displeasure at the fact that unlike before, Magistrates have been required to provide breakfast and lunch at their own expense with promises that they will be provided an amount of US$15 each afterwards.

And has she forgotten that she is proposing that this VRU process be held at the height of the rainy season when roads through the countryside have become impassable? The public is left to speculate whether this is due to incompetence or to complicity with designs to produce fraudulent elections results.

Chairperson Lansanah probably needs to be reminded of the grave implications associated with such lapses which the public is already attributing to connivance or collusion with a grand “rob Peter” (the Liberian people) “to pay PauL” (politicians and predatory business interests) -like scheme.

She must never suffer loss of memory (amnesia) of the 2017 elections which brought the nation to the brink of violence as she presides over the December elections. Already, violence has begun to rise to near intolerable levels. Fraudulent elections results arising from a fraudulent and compromised Voters Roll will more likely than not provoke public protests which may turn violent and spill into a free-for-all affair.

And should violence of the kind witnessed in Klah Town (Clara Town) recently, when Darius Dillon visited, rear its head, or should violence ensue as the result of elections results widely perceived to be fraudulent, it could create legitimacy problems for the government as it will not be complete without a full Senate.

President Weah should be reminded of the implications of instability, that there are scores of opportunists waiting in the wings to latch on to any opportunity or do everything possible to sell the idea of a transitional government should this Weah led government allow politically motivated violence to spin out of control and prevent the successful holding of peaceful, free, fair and transparent elections.

Truth be told, the forecast for the upcoming December elections appear gloomy and all must be done to avert the unfolding of impending disaster.

5 COMMENTS

  1. MR. EDITOR, SINCE THE BIRTH OF MULTI-PARTY POLITICS IN LIBERIA AND ON THE CONTINENT OF AFRICA, THERE HAS ALWAYS BEEN ELECTORAL VIOLENCE IN LIBERIA FROM 1997 – 2017. SEE FOR YOURSELF HEREUNDER: SO, IF THERE WAS NEVER ANY TRANSITIONAL GOVERNMENT AS A REMEDY, YOU MAKE A FOOL OUT OF YOURSELF TO MENTION ONE NOW! SUCH VIOLENCE CAN NEVER SPIN OUT OF CONTROL! NEVER! YOU THE OPPOSITION HAVE SIMPLY SENSED MASSIVE DEFEAT! AND THIS IS WHY YOU DECEPTIVELY EVEN MENTION FRAUD! GEORGE WEAH IS SIMPLY TOO POPULAR TO LOSE ANY ELECTION FOR THE COMING YEARS! ITS AS SIMPLE AS THAT! AND YOU THE OPPOSITION HAVE SENSED THAT TRIUMPH OF DR. GEORGE MANNEH WEAH!

    This year Liberia will conduct its third presidential and legislative election since the end of the civil conflict in 2003. The elections are scheduled for October 10.

    However, the National Elections Commission (NEC) faces significant financial and operational challenges to maintain this electoral calendar and the events leading up to it: accreditation of election observers, voter registration, commencement of civic education among other responsibilities. And, the legacy of the civil war, unemployed youth, identity politics, and a ‘winner takes all’ political culture combine to create continuing vulnerabilities for electoral violence to occur again in 2017.

    In 1996, a peace agreement was signed which ended the First Liberian Civil War. That war lasted from 1989 until 1997 and cost an estimated 600,000 lives. One mandate in the peace agreement was to conduct general elections in 1997. The President, House of Representatives, and Senate were elected. The voter turnout was 89 percent, and former warlord Charles Taylor and his New Patriotic Party (NPP) won the presidency with 75.3 percent of the vote. This election was overseen by the United Nations (UN) through its peacekeeping presence the UN Observer Mission in Liberia. While this election was relatively peaceful, it was widely believed that without a victory, Charles Taylor would have returned to war.

    However, in 1999 two rebel groups emerged – Liberian United for Reconciliation and Democracy, in the north, backed by the neighbouring state of Guinea; and a second group emerged in the south – the movement for Democracy in Liberia. The Second Liberia Civil War lasted until 2003, when the Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed.

    The next election conducted in 2005 was administered under Liberian authority and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was elected as Liberia’s first female president. The opposition claimed that there was vote rigging, but international observers generally gave passing marks to this election, which was also relatively peaceful.

    However, the vulnerabilities remaining from over a decade of civil wars produced political fissures between the ruling and opposition parties which erupted into violence during the 2011 presidential and parliamentary elections.

    The violence preceded the conduct of the second round of voting in the presidential elections. Johnson had achieved a plurality over Winston Tubman of the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC), but did not pass the 50 percent plus one threshold required for victory.

    However, the CDC claimed election fraud and urged their supporters to boycott the second round. They stated that the NEC had not investigated and concluded adjudication on all the complaints which they received in the first round – over 50 were filed, with 16 were still being investigated and 38 had been concluded. The NEC said that it was constitutionally bound to follow the statutory election calendar.

    When the NEC announced that the second round would proceed on schedule because the constitution required it, CDC supporters gathered outside their headquarters in what was initially described as a peaceful protest. However, because they did not have a permit, this protest was met with force from the Liberian National Police (LNP) and the officers from UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL). The police reportedly used tear and live ammunition against stone-throwing protesters. Up to six people were reported killed by police fire and several others wounded.

    While opposed by the government of the United States and others in the international community, the CDC boycott was implemented. Of 4,500 polling stations, many opened late on election day, and some did not open at all for fear of violence

    The legacy of violence among political rivals re-emerged in by-elections for 15 Senate seats in 2014. Violent clashes between supporters of George Weah (CDC) and Robert Alvin Sirleaf (Unity Party) occurred in many of these Senate contests. Sirleaf is the son of the incumbent president. The NEC did not sanction either side for these incidents.

    Concerns over the potential for this legacy of political rival violence to re-emerge in 2017 have already been expressed. The Special Representative of the President of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Liberia, Ambassador Babatunde Ajisomo, issued a statement urging Liberians to safeguard elections by strengthening the justice system and prosecuting election offenders.

    As electoral disputes were the triggers to violence before, the Special Representative urged the creation of an Elections Offences Commission of Tribunal with prosecutorial powers, which the NEC does not possess. He stated that the media would play an important role in peaceful elections through objective reporting. He also pointed out that corruption was a trigger for electoral violence and that the internal democracy of political parties needed to be strengthened.

    ECOWAS organized a Consultative Forum on Election Security involving Liberia security stakeholders. In examining the capacities of LNP, ECOWAS has recommended that training for security forces should include risk analysis and mapping potential conflict areas.

  2. Mr. Zoedjallah, your sharing of that post on electoral violence in Liberia from 1997 to 2017 has prompted me to share this below from the AFRICA RESEARCH INSTITUTE

    AFRICA RESEARCH INSTITUTE

    Election violence, and accountability

    “Sierra Leone has held 11 parliamentary and five presidential elections since independence in 1961 (*). All have been accompanied by violence. In the 1967 elections, the ruling SLPP used new public order legislation and rarray boys– thugs – to stymie opposition. A premature announcement by the SLPP-appointed election commissioner that incumbent Prime Minister Albert Margai had won the ballot triggered nationwide riots. A retraction of the announcement in favour of Siaka Stevens and the APC was followed by a coup d’etat. Stevens was reinstated after a counter-coup at the end of 1968.”

    “The 1973 election was boycotted by the SLPP, amid allegations that APC supporters were preventing its candidates from entering nomination centres. SLPP candidates were reportedly kidnapped. In 1977, voting took place under a state of emergency. The APC employed its youth wing and the Internal Security Unit – commonly referred to as “I Shoot U” – to harass SLPP politicians and supporters. In eight constituencies, polls could not be held. In 1982, more than 50 people were killed in an election conducted in a one party state.”

  3. But if the editor John H.T.Stewart Jr. could say Kollie Tamba and his accomplices at the CBL “were justifiably afraid to blow the whistle” IN 2016, 2017, or 2018, because of the mysterious death of Matthew Innis” which occurred just the other day in March 2019, what other outlandish lies must he disseminate to prove he is being paid by these CBL criminals to mislead people away from the truth??

  4. The manner in which the ruling party is proceeding portends danger in the upcoming elections. For one thing, its followers have already started attacking members of other political groupings. The brutal attacks against Kolubah and Cummings and quite recently the violence that was perpetrated against Dillon in Clara Town are testaments to this fact.

    Weah has appealed to his CDC base to relinquish violence. According to him they should eschew violence if they love him. However, observers know that this president is reputable for saying one thing and doing another particularly when matters concern violence and rampant impunity, fiscal insanity going amok, and giving priority to the accumulation of personal wealth instead of working on a national recovery program that would lead the citizens out of poverty..

    But as the situation appears, this government has no intention of making sure that the safety of all the players in the upcoming contests is considered. This latter statement is the reason that gives rise as to why Weah’s critics say he is very cunning, devious, and very dangerous because he acts behind the scenes by instructing his thugs to stoke violence while he hides behind them.

    And so Weah’s actions give credence to the saying, “He who sees evil, and does not protest it is as much as involved as the perpetrators!”

    The old computer acronym, GIGO, which stands for “Garbage In and Garbage out”, is coming to life here. In other words, the outcomes of the elections and the sanity with which they will be conducted will depend on the genuine efforts made by the government and all stakeholders now to pre-empt any future attempts at stirring-up violence and avoiding unnecessary bloodshed during the events.

Leave a Reply